On 2.24 I wrote that I was settling into HBO’s Togetherness and starting to feel good about all the characters except for Melanie Lynskey‘s awful, draggy, down-headed Michelle. My heart has been aching for her miserable, screwed-down husband Brett (Mark Duplass), who’s been at least making an effort to pull things together but who naturally feels alienated by her lack of sexual interest in him, and by her blooming platonic relationship with David (John Ortiz). It’s a San Quentin marriage with occasional furloughs. I’ve been sitting in the lotus position in front of the Samsung and pleading with Brett to “give it up, man…move out or move into the garage but cut the cord and let your soul breathe…Melanie is trying to get to a good place like the rest of us but she’s almost Margaret Hamilton.” No, that’s harsh. She’s not a witch. But everything she touches turns to glum.
And then on last Sunday’s “Party Time” episode…breakthrough!
On 2.22 Brett ran into an older hippie check named Linda (Mary Steenburgen) and right away felt a certain spiritual connection, and so last Sunday night he decided to duck out of a charter-school party Michelle was giving and visit a party at Linda’s commune instead. Right away he meets a hippie-cat guy who gives him some psychedelic tea, and not long after Brett starts to hang with Linda the elevator in the brain hotel starts to rise and rise and rise, and before you know it he’s spaced and dreamy and totally tripping.
And in a pretty good way too. He’s open about his fears. He and Linda do a screaming thing. He bonds with a horse and sees that the horse is just being himself, and suddenly that’s what Brett wants — to just “be me” and not that other guy he’s expected to be but not quite managing to be all the time. He calls Alex (Steve Zissis) to assure him that their bond is important no matter what happens. And then Alex drives up and chauffeurs Brett back to Michelle’s party. Brett is wearing a smallish bathrobe due to his having taken a shower with Linda with his clothes on. And when he returns he’s got this settled, serene thing going. He’s Captain Trips in a state of peace and confidence, talking gentle but plain truths to everyone. For the first time the clouds have lifted. He’s not anxious or gloomy.
I’ve been there. I’ve been with people at a party after going through a profound spiritual experience and I can tell you the feeling of serenity and cleanliness is amazing. There is nothing that doesn’t feel right. Everything’s fine and it all fits together. Brett goes up to David and tells him in the smoothest way imaginable that he hopes he and Michelle aren’t having an actual affair, but in a way that doesn’t sound like an alarm bell. And then pissed-off Michelle gives him shit about wearing the robe, and Brett says two things. One, “We’re not good for each other right now.” And two, “Why don’t we separate?” For the time being, he means, but he could also be suggesting an extended arrangement.
Yes, I realize Brett might get back together with Michelle for the sake of the kids, and that’ll be too bad but on the other hand…well, okay. I understand the impulse — I was more than willing to stay in my bad marriage for the sake of the kids — so I wouldn’t blame anyone if this happens. But Brett and Michelle would be so much happier if they could drop the idea of making each other miserable and just forget about sex and just be with people they want to be with when there’s time.